The 2020 Emmy joke that has people angry at Jimmy Kimmel

The 2020 Emmys looked quite different from previous years due to social-distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. Emmy presenters wore hazmat suits, actors and actresses accepted awards from the comfort of their homes, and a small fire broke out, which seemed like the perfect metaphor for 2020.

With no stars, no carpet, and no audience at the Staples Center, the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards decided to keep one element to hopefully get viewers through the night: a host. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel was chosen to lead the 2020 Emmys. The comedian previously landed the gig in 2012 and 2016. Kimmel's 2020 appearance as the host of the award show came after the 2019 Emmys opted not to have a host at all, following the lead of the 2019 Oscars, per Refinery29.

Kimmel had a new challenge returning as the host of the award show — no real audience to laugh at his opening monologue. Given the circumstances, it seemed the only way to determine if the comedian's jokes were registering with award show viewers was to look at social media, and Twitter seemed a bit unhappy with one of Kimmel's celebrity digs of the night.

Jimmy Kimmel made a cringe-worthy joke about John Oliver

No stranger to hosting award shows, as of this writing, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel has hosted the Academy Awards two times and the Emmy Awards three times, including in 2020. The only difference when it came to the 72nd Primetime Emmys was the lack of an audience to laugh along with the comedian as he made digs at celebrities, and of course, the 2020 presidential election.

One joke, in particular, didn't sit well with Twitter users at all. The jab in question was directed toward fellow late-night host John Oliver of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. After Oliver's acceptance speech for Outstanding Variety Talk Series, Kimmel took a moment to make a quick joke about calling ICE, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, on the British host. Oliver first came to the United States in 2006 as a correspondent on The Daily Show before becoming a U.S. citizen in December 2019, per The Hollywood Reporter. 

Twitter found Kimmel's dig at Oliver's citizenship to be "terrible," a "bad look" and even led some to some barf emojis. It seems like that joke didn't come across virtually the way it may have come across in Kimmel's head. Let's take a closer look at the backlash.

Jimmy Kimmel got called out for white privilege following his ICE joke

When John Oliver beat Jimmy Kimmel for Outstanding Variety Talk Series at the 2020 Emmy Awards, it wasn't the first time. Fun fact: Oliver has won the award five years in a row, per the Daily Mail. So following his loss, Kimmel made the joke, "Congratulations again to John Oliver, I will be reporting him to ICE."

Fans were astonished at the offensiveness of the joke targeted at Oliver. Twitter hit back hard with one person calling Kimmel out on white privilege and writing, "the amount of white privilege it took for Jimmy Kimmel to get up on stage at a nationally televised event and make a joke about ice and have no one tell him that that isn't okay, is absolutely astonishing to me. @jimmykimmel @TheEmmys what's so funny about ice?" Meanwhile, another Twitter user asked why the Emmys couldn't find another host, saying, "it almost flew over my head but [J]immy [K]immel joking about calling ICE was not funny... they couldn't get anyone else to host??"

The joke was viewed as extremely unfortunate, considering the 2020 political climate in the U.S. As the Independent pointed out, "ICE and the poor conditions of immigration detention centres across the United States have come under repeated scrutiny during the Trump administration." As if this wasn't enough, Kimmel's poorly planned joke brought up another unsavory memory and Twitter wouldn't let that drop either.

Twitter brought up Jimmy Kimmel's past during the Emmy Awards

After Jimmy Kimmel's joke about calling ICE after John Oliver beat him for Outstanding Variety Talk Series at the 2020 Emmys, Twitter brought up another memory of Kimmel that the host would surely rather have us forget. In June 2020, Kimmel issued an apology after clips surfaced on the internet of him in blackface. In his apology statement, Kimmel said (via CNN), "On KROQ radio in the mid-90s, I did a recurring impression of the NBA player Karl Malone." He attempted an apology and explanation by saying, "I never considered that this might be seen as anything other than an imitation of a fellow human being, one that had no more to do with Karl's skin color than it did his bulging muscles and bald head."

However, Twitter didn't forget, and in combination with Kimmel's ICE joke, people were really upset online. One Twitter user reminded audiences of the past misstep and tweeted during the Emmys: "So Jimmy Kimmel, the black face wearer." Someone else asked on Twitter, "I didn't watch, so does anyone know if Jimmy Kimmel did one of his black face routines at the Emmy's?"

With no live audience, it would have been tough to gauge a reaction to Kimmel as host, but thanks to insight from Twitter, it's clear that people are less than impressed with him.